Social function chit chat lately always seems to turn to the latest tale of woe: “Jane’s husband (or father) got sick and now he’s in the nursing home on Medicaid. She could only keep the house and a little bit more, I heard.” How can you avoid this? Plan ahead with an elder law attorney.
What IS elder law? Elder law refers to a multi-faceted legal practice area, where attorneys use a holistic approach to assist seniors and their families deal with the myriad issues that arise as people age. It includes estate planning, preparation of advance directives (health care proxy and power of attorney) and planning for long term care, such as nursing home care, as well as disability, mental health and obtaining public benefits. We obtain help with finding living and care arrangements and provide advice on how to pay for care, both through private funds and the use of government benefits, such as Medicare and Medicaid.
Why should someone see an elder law attorney? Elder law attorneys are uniquely qualified and specially equipped to handle the issues facing seniors. We draft legal documents, assist with navigating government programs and handle benefit applications, assist with nursing home placement, home care needs and a variety of other unexpected issues. We have the added benefit of a network of professionals to assist with the non-legal aspects of care and planning, including geriatric specialists, placement professionals and financial advisors. The average family attorney can draft documents, but will not have the depth of knowledge or the access to non-legal professionals that the elder law attorney has. To locate an elder lawyer near you visit the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at www.naela.com. There you can perform a geographic search and obtain contact information for attorneys who dedicate themselves to the special needs of seniors.
What basic legal documents should I have? A health care proxy and a power of attorney.
The health care proxy names someone to make your health care decisions when you cannot communicate your wishes to your medical care providers.
New York recognizes a health care proxy, not a living will. A living will is just a written statement that gives an idea of types of treatment you may want or wish to avoid. The power of attorney names someone to make financial decisions on your behalf and typically allows full access to your assets. It will be tailored to your needs.
If you do not have a health care proxy or power of attorney and illness strikes, your family may need to bring a guardianship proceeding, where a judge appoints someone to make health care and financial decisions on your behalf. The cost of a guardianship is usually thousands of dollars, paid out of your assets.
How much will proper planning cost? The cost of having a skilled elder law attorney create a health care proxy, power of attorney and will is usually less than $1,000 for a single person. Long term care consultations and planning vary, depending on each family situation. You would typically pay 5-6% of the sale price of your home to the realtors involved; most people consider this well worth the money for the expertise. A good elder law attorney can often save a family hundreds of thousands of dollars. The fee is a very small amount in comparison.
While the changes in Medicaid law have been drastic, there is usually something that can be done. Even if disaster has already struck, there may still be some options. Call before you fill out the nursing home application and before you apply for Medicaid benefits, even if you are told you “must” apply right away.
Welcome to 2008. The pertinent Medicaid figures are out now.
The "community spouse" of a Medicaid applicant can keep between $74,820 and $104,400 as his Community Spouse Resource Allowance ("CSRA"). The community spouse is also entitled to a minimum monthly maintenance needs allowance of $2,610.
Unfortunately, the Medicaid applicant is still only entitled to a personal needs allowance each month of $50, the same small amount that has been in effect for two decades.